ALEXANDRIA, MN (April 27, 2012) – A new children and family ministry position, the debut of new videos highlighting ministry priorities, and election of leaders were among highlights of this past weekend’s annual meeting of the Northwest Conference of the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC).
Theme of this year’s meeting was “Love Mercy, Do Justice,” which is one of five mission priorities of the denomination. Plans call for the conference to celebrate each of the remaining four denominational mission priorities during succeeding conference annual meetings, mirroring the pattern being used for ECC annual meetings.
Delegates also heard updates on youth ministry, church planting, and congregational vitality initiatives as well as a preview of plans to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Minnehaha Academy next year.
The 2012-2013 budget of $965,679 approved by delegates includes funds to create a new part-time conference staff position as director of children and family ministry. This position will resource children’s directors in conference churches and explore ways to support under-resourced churches in this area of ministry.
“This is such an important, important thing for us to be about,” said Mark R. Stromberg, conference superintendent. “It is essential that we connect with young people in our churches.”
Reflecting on the power of culture to draw young people away from the Church and Christ’s redemptive influence, Stromberg challenged those in attendance to “do all we can to reverse that trend.”
Stromberg also shared details about a new “Care to Pastors” initiative that is intended to provide proactive support and encouragement to members of the Northwest Conference Ministerium.
“In the ideal, I would envision having a full-time ministry staff person whose focus is the personal and positional health of our pastors, as we believe that this is essential to the missional health of our churches,” Stromberg said. “This is the first baby-step in that direction.”
Three new videos were previewed, highlighting conference ministry priorities. Each video features interview segments with church staff, lay leaders and pastors, intermixed with animations of statistics and key statements designed to help explain each priority. The videos are designed for use throughout the year in new member classes, worship services, and other adult education opportunities to help congregations better understand and engage the work of the conference. Copies are available on the conference website.
In other reports:
- Ginny Olson, director of youth ministry, noted that this summer, other regional conferences within the denomination will pilot the Adventures in Leadership program based on the long-standing Northwest Conference event.
- Mike Brown, director of church planting, challenged churches to consider how church planting can fit into their ministry plans. During Brown’s report, delegates approved a recommendation from the conference executive board that Catalyst Covenant Church, planted in Alexandria in July 2010, be welcomed into membership during the 2012 ECC Annual Meeting in June.
- Jon Kramka, director of congregational vitality, updated delegates on ways in which many churches are utilizing resources in the “Vitality Pathway” program, reaffirming the conference’s strong commitment to encouraging all churches to become more healthy and missional.
Delegates also received reports from affiliated ministries including the Ministerial Association, the Town and Country Commission, Women Ministries, Covenant Enabling Residences of Minnesota, Covenant Retirement Communities of Minnesota, Parish Nursing, Covenant Trust Company, and a conference camping ministry representative.
A new committee has been formed to help strengthen the relationship between Minnehaha Academy and the conference, reported Donna Harris, the school’s president. The school is owned and operated by the conference. Minnehaha Academy will host the 2013 conference annual meeting in Minneapolis, which coincides with the school’s 100th anniversary.
Several individuals were elected or appointed to leadership positions during business sessions, including John Stewart to serve another term as conference executive board chairperson; Jan Bros and Marc Peterson to serve five-year terms on the conference executive board; and Troy Lucht and Polly Wright to serve five-year terms on the Minnehaha Academy Board of Education.
During the Friday evening worship service, a special prayer was offered for nine candidates for ordination and commissioning along with representatives of Catalyst Covenant Church. “Ask the Lord of the Harvest” commitment cards were collected, and a special offering raised $1,986 to support conference compassion, mercy and justice grants.
Soong-Chan Rah, Milton B. Engebretson Associate Professor of Church Growth and Evangelism at North Park Theological Seminary, was a featured speaker during the weekend event. He challenged churches to consider the theological difference of perspective between the “haves” and the “have-nots.”
“How are we – as people called toward justice and coming out of celebration – learning that when we encounter suffering, that there’s not just something we offer, but there is something we also receive?” Rah asked. “When we find these places of suffering, may we recognize that the poor are not a target to be marked for action, but they are a gift to us, that the hungry are a gift to us, that the alien among us are a gift to us.”
Rah also presented a workshop, “Evangelism and Justice: Two Sides of the Same Coin,” pointing out that the work of evangelism is to be demonstrated, not just proclaimed. “It’s not just about teaching and saying the right words, it’s about how we live our lives and demonstrate it.”